— 1 —
“Gods and monsters come in many shapes and form, but none more deadly than the many-armed human kind who can both create life,
and just as quickly, destroy it.”
The dwarf planet Chandra, designate EL10 or hell by some, was simply called the Rock by the residents of Vikram’s Landing. The ramshackle shanty town—that had started out life as nothing more than a cluster of miner’s survival pods sheltered in a maze of interconnecting gullies—had grown exponentially the minute a pocket of the highly prized, and much sought after, crystals had been discovered. To the Ceres mining company, however, Vikram’s Landing was nothing short of a pustulant boil and no matter how much they squeezed, the damn place refused to give-up, let alone die. Vikram’s Landing, against all the odds, steadfastly clung to life just like those who populated it.
The independent miners had set up camp well before the Company had arrived and had found ways to survive in Chandra’s harshest of conditions. And whether or not Company employees, indentured or not, were bound to fork over their hard-earned credit to the Company for everything from their accommodation to their over-priced utilities, residents of Vikram found inventive ways to makes ends meet.
Like the time Ma Issy Camden and her boys figured out a way to syphon off a trickle of power from the Company’s then fledgling power grid that first year the Company were setting themselves up and establishing Main Town. Both sides learnt bitter lessons from the encounter, both sides learnt they would forever and always be in a battle of wills one the Company thought they could win.
Vikram, and its inhabitants, had other ideas.
These days there were only two reason you ended up on the Rock. You were either running from something, and this was the end of the line. Or, you were an indentured slave and this was the end of the line. Strangely enough, an indentured slave might have it better than most, depending on your skill level and just how much the Company valued you or, more to the point, your contract, as an asset. The downside, just like any Company asset, you could be bought and sold, almost at will. Especially out here, given the electronic permissions needed, ubiquitous Governmental forms and Transacts which were not always filed in a timely manner, if at all.
Company Enforcer, Piotr Stoff, while not an indentured slave was nonetheless running from his past when he found himself working for Ceres and sent to Chandra. The heavy set man, dressed in drab steel-grey Company coveralls, stood in the dark shadow next to one in a row of habitats that mark the boundary between what was considered Company property and Vikram. He watched with a certain twisted satisfaction as the other two, who formed his team, cornered their mark, an escaped indentured slave. His orders where to capture and retrieve, nowhere did it say kill. That, however, didn’t mean he and his team couldn’t have some sporting fun. They’d chased this one all the way from the other side of the spaceport to here. Now, though, was not the time to lose the runaway in the dark narrow confines in the gullies up ahead, especially as sun-up was less than an hour away.
Stepping away from the shadow and into the orange wan light cast by the boundary lights, Piotr signalled the other two to corral the runaway, and quickly, he wanted to be back at barracks for breakfast, before the infernal sun kissed the barren ground beneath his boots.
No one in their right mind wanted to be caught outside after sunrise unless inside a sealed crawler, an AP-suit, or they were suicidal. And it wasn’t like they hadn’t had their fair share of suicides over the years. It was coming up to the vernal equinox a time of flux and change in the, at-best, unstable weather patterns, weather that tested even the hardiest of seasoned Rock dwellers: Indie and Company alike.
This pre-dawn, catching one small bundle of rags was proving to be less sport and more a chore, as Piotr pull out the stunner from his shoulder holster, and jogged to cut off the only other avenue of escape the runaway had. Or at least, he thought. Much to his surprise, the slave was proving to be surprisingly agile never mind wily. He levelled his weapon at the same time the other two did and slowly moved in, cutting off of the angles.
Stoff had not counted on one thing to thwart him though; interference.